Discovering Star Trek

Discovering Star Trek

Let’s start here.

There are no (known) queer females on Star Trek: Discovery.

In the long and storied history of Star Trek, they’ve always been willing to step across the line and demonstrate that we can be different. They had a black woman as an officer on the original series, who had the first interracial kiss on network TV. That was ground breaking and earth shattering. But this was always a series about hope and the future and a chance that we can be better.

While historically they’ve been progressive, they’ve also shied away from outright homosexuality in their main characters until now.

Gay Men Aboard

In the new series, which premiered on CBS last Sunday and can be watched on CBS All Access, Anthony Rapp portrays Lt. Stamets, an “astromycologist,” or fungus expert, and Starfleet Science Officer who happens to be gay. His love interest is played by fellow Rent star, Wilson Cruz.

Yet, over it’s cough lengthy run, finding queer women on Star Trek is surprisingly hard. In 1987, series creator Gene Roddenberry stated that there would be homosexual characters in The Next Generation. That did not actually manifest, due in part to his passing.

First: Lal

In 1990, the fourth season of TNG, the android Data created an android child. Lal. He built his child as gender neutral, allowing Lal to decide what gender and form to take in their own time. Lal decided to be a humanoid female. Sadly, Lal’s system fails and she dies, though Data keeps her memories in his own network.

But in 1991, Gene promised gay crew members would appear in the next season of TNG. Leonard Nimoy (Spock) was in full support and penned a 1991 letter to the Los Angeles Times saying, “It is entirely fitting that gays and lesbians will appear unobtrusively aboard the Enterprise—neither objects of pity nor melodramatic attention.”

But Gene died shortly after the interview and the gay characters never fully manifest.

Erased: Soren

In the aforementioned fifth season, the episode “The Outcast” aired and we met a character named Soren. Soren was a member of an androgynous race called the J’naii, who saw the concept of gender primitive and offensive. Naturally Soren fell in love with Riker, and decided they were a woman. However their parents didn’t approve, and Soren was shock-therapied back to being agender.

It was clearly meant to address shock therapy as an ineffective and inhuman torture for gay ‘conversion,’ but the decidedly unhappy ending made it uncomfortable and in fact painful. Both too close to home and too far from satisfying, it was yet another dismal display of sexuality in space.

Two Make One: The Trill

This brings us to the more peculiar situations (and one that made me ask ‘what does dead mean?’), because we have the Trill. A symbiotic species, the Trill are two creatures: a worm and a humanoid. The work lives, pretty much forever, and joins with a humanoid, to make the singular person.

In 1991, the episode “The Host” introduces the Trill. A handsome male symbiont becomes lovers with Dr. Beverly Crusher. When he dies, and is transferred to a new, female, host, Kareel Odan, Dr. Crusher can’t get over the uncertainty of loving someone whose body changes like that when they die. Given the loss of her husband, this makes quite a bit of sense. That said, it still reeks of homophobia.

But once we met the Trill, we had to have Jadzia Dax. It’s when we meet Jadzia, a “bisexual woman in the most far-reaching sense”, we learn that there’s actually a Trill prohibition about picking up with previous lives’ relationships. Like Dax’s previous host’s ex-wife, Lenara Khan. While they share a kiss, a relationship would put them in danger of being expelled from Trill, never allowed to return. After temporarily rejoining, Jadzia was ready to take that risk but Lenara decided it would be best to stay apart.

An Actual Lesbian!

There actually is one actual lesbian. Ezri. No, not Ezri Dax (whom is a pansexual like Jadzia before her). No, we’re talking about Ezri Tigan, who very clearly preferred women in the alternate “Mirror” universe. That’s the one where Spock has a goatee. In that universe, Kira Nerys has a pansexual harem. One which Ezri does not wish to join.

Only One?

And yet. Here we are in 2017, and for a show that’s been on since 1964, you’d expect to have a few more. Alas, Star Trek is progressive enough for TV’s first interracial kiss, but not enough to jump into the land where no man has gone before.

Maybe Discovery will breach that final frontier.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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